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How to Avoid the Validation Trap

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Why do you get nervous before an interview? When you see someone attractive, why don’t you talk to him/her? Pressure.

Pressure is what prevents us from really enjoying life and doing what’s necessary to get the results we want. We feel pressure because of expectations – expectations we’ve built up in our minds, expectations that we feel we have to live up to. We fear embarrassment, failure, and being judged by others.

The problem is that many of us are more obsessed with maintaining an image than taking risks, making mistakes and achieving real growth.

While it’s normal to want to be liked and accepted, it’s dangerous when you become too addicted to approval. When validation becomes a habit, you will keep wanting more of it. It’s a chase that never ends.

It explains why some of the most beautiful people in the world are often the most insecure. They’re so used to being praised for their beauty that it becomes an integral part of their identity. Ironically, they’re the most afraid to put themselves out there because they’ve tied their self-worth to their appearance – rejection will cause them that much more emotional pain.

Here’s how to change your mindset from validation-seeking to self-acceptance:

  1. Identify where your need for approval is coming from

 Ask yourself: Where do you derive confidence from? What makes you feel good?

For some people, it’s work accomplishments and excelling in their careers. For others, it’s the quality of their relationships with family, friends, or significant others. The problem arises when you focus your energies primarily on one area, because you will be emotionally devastated when something inevitably goes wrong in that area. With all of life’s ups and downs, it’s important to seek balance in your personal life.

Going one step further, validation-seeking behavior often stems from our childhood – how we were parented, if we were bullied in school, and so on. In some cases, the need for approval can also stem from an abusive romantic relationship.

“If you seek approval and validation from others (and to feel good about yourself), then you will seek out men [or women] who give that to you immediately, or you’ll seek out relationships to receive that affirmation/validation,” says Dr. Terri Orbuch. “You’ll be more likely to pick someone who isn’t right for you, or a relationship that isn’t right for you.”

Take me for example: During my early twenties, I continued to enter into relationships with emotionally unavailable men – more specifically, guys who posed a challenge in some way.

According to Freud’s repetition compulsion theory, when people relive traumatic events over and over again it represents an attempt at mastery and control. Revisiting harmful behavior, which in my case was entering unhealthy relationships, was a misguided effort to right the wrongs of the past. In other words, by continuously dating emotionally unavailable men, I was trying to prove to myself (on an unconscious level) that I could tame the player. But sadly, I kept setting myself up to fail.

To put it simply, I was dating with my ego instead of my heart. While the heart seeks comfort and contentment, the ego seeks approval and validation. I never stopped to ask myself if I actually liked these guys; the only thing I cared about was if they liked me.

  1. Reframe your perspective on rejection

The truth is rejection actually has nothing to do with you. Think about it: When we pass judgment on someone else, it has nothing to do with that person and everything to do our own beliefs.

“Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they live in a completely different world from the world we live in.” – Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

You never really know what’s actually going on in someone’s mind so why draw conclusions? Especially conclusions that damage your own self-worth.

Side note: As I’m writing, my friend read this section and said: “Well, sometimes it really is about the other person. What about the guy you go on a date with who’s pretentious and rude? It is 100% about him.”

Yes and no. We don’t know what’s really going on in his life so it’s unfair to judge him. Even when a situation seems extremely personal, even when someone insults us directly, it still has nothing to do with us. Sure, there’s a chance he is rude and pretentious all day every day, but what if he has a degrading boss who always makes him feel inadequate? What if someone in his family is sick? You never know why people are the way they are.

There are many layers to this topic, but the bottom line is: Stop taking things personally. There is nothing more liberating than when you stop caring so much about what other people think.

  1. Focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t

In psychology, there is a principle known as the locus of control – which explains that there are two types of people in the world: people who believe they are in control of their lives (internal locus of control) and people who believe life is happening to them (external locus of control).

Not surprisingly, people who have an internal locus of control are happier and more successful compared to the people who have an external locus of control.

According to a study of more than 7,500 British adults who were followed since birth, “those who had shown an internal locus of control at the age of ten were less likely to be overweight at age thirty, less likely to describe their health as poor, or show high levels of psychological stress.”

Researchers explained that “children with a more internal locus of control behave more healthily as adults because they have greater confidence in their ability to influence outcomes through their own actions. They may also have higher self-esteem.”

Remember, you can’t control what other people think, say or do. You are only responsible for your own thoughts and actions. When you can make this mental shift, it will completely change the course of your life.

How to Avoid the Validation Trap

Kaitlin Vogel

From covering health and wellness content to neuroscience to relationships and dating advice, I’m committed to creating content that matters. My goal is for readers to walk away feeling empowered and motivated – whether it’s to pursue their dream job, strengthen the connection with their partner, or follow mindfulness strategies to relieve stress and anxiety.


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APA Reference
Vogel, K. (2018). How to Avoid the Validation Trap. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 15, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/change-your-mind/2018/02/how-to-avoid-the-validation-trap/

 

Last updated: 25 Feb 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Feb 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.